How to Reference a Government Act in APA Format

APA formatting is most often required in the science, social science and criminology fields, areas that may reference a governmental act. Since APA citations typically display an author's last name and year of publication, understanding the symbols used is key to correctly citing an act or statute.

In-Text Citations

As explained in the sixth edition of the "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association," references within the text of your paper should include the official or well-known name of the act and the year it was put into place with a comma between the two and no italics. Fully spell out the name of the act the first time you use it in a citation or signal phrase, capitalizing the first word and other important words, including "Act." If you refer to the act more than three times in your text, subsequent mentions may use an acronym if it exists. For instance, the first in-text citation for an act might look like this:

(No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, 2002).

If you mention the act more than three times, later citations may use the familiar acronym NCLB. In this example, although the name includes the date 2001, it was enacted in 2002, so that is the year used in the citation.


The References page entry begins with the full name of the act or statute. For a federal statute, then insert a section symbol that looks like two intertwined s'. The section and volume numbers appear next, with a comma between the two. After a second section symbol, give the section number and then the year the statute was enacted in parentheses with a period at the end. A federal act's entry looks like this:

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 [section symbol] 110, 32 U.S.C. [section symbol] 3229 (2002).

When citing an act from somewhere other than the U.S.C., include "Pub. L. No." (without quotation marks) after the name of the act and a comma to indicate "Public Law Number" and the title number. Insert a section symbol, the section number, a comma, the volume number and "Stat." (without quotation marks) and the statute number. Put the date enacted in parentheses and end with a period. This entry looks like this example:

Violent Crime Act of 1994, Pub. L. No. 34253 [section symbol] 331, 32 Stat. 3355 (2000).

About the Author

Kristie Sweet has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Northern Colorado.

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